The Colonies Go To War
After the Boston Tea Party (1773), the British antagonized the colonists by closing the port of Boston. To improve their defenses and prepare for war, the colonies formed Committees of Safety and forced Tory militia officers to resign. Officers sympathetic to independence replaced the Tory Officers. The colonists also accumulated stores of military supplies and established minuteman companies.
Musicians in the minuteman companies provided the steady rhythms needed to drill the new militia. On April 19, 1775, William Diamond (in some accounts Dinman), a drummer in Captain John Parker’s Lexington militia company, beat To Arms at the Battle of Lexington. Also present was Jonathan Harrington, a fifer. Diamond later went on to march the Lexington militia to Bunker Hill. Some time after Bunker Hill, Diamond set aside his drum in favor of a musket and served throughout the remainder of the Revolution, to include the Battle of Yorktown, as a foot soldier.
Within days of the Lexington battle, militiamen arrived in Boston from all the New England Colonies and eastern Canada. The Massachusetts Provincial Continental Congress requested aid from the Second Continental Congress to strengthen Boston’s defense. As the delegates entered Philadelphia they were met by an infantry company with a band parading them through the streets of the city. The Continental Congress responded by establishing the New England Army and appointing George Washington commander of all continental forces.
Support for independence grew and spread throughout the colonies as the war in New England intensified. The colonists held rallies with patriotic speeches and banners. Militia companies drilled while bands played patriotic melodies. By the time of the Revolution, American bands conformed to the European “Harmoniemusick” model.
At least seven regiments were known to have bands. The bands of the 3rd and 4th Regiments of Artillery served until the end of the war. Near the end of the Revolution, both bands gave frequent civilian concerts. One of them continued to exist into the nineteenth century under the name of the “Massachusetts Band.”
Reference:U.S. Army Bands – History: Pre-Revolutionary War, Archives, U.S. Army Library, West Point, NY